May 14, 2019 - Money

Cash Confessional: A week of spending on a 27-year-old architect’s $55,000 salary



Our Cash Confessional series, in partnership with Bank of America, takes a personal and anonymous look into how people of all ages and incomes spend their money in the span of seven days.

To see the other installments of Cash Confessional, click here. This series is completely volunteer-based; if you’re interested in keeping track of your own spending and having it featured, email Lauren at [email protected] or fill out our Survey Monkey.

The basics

Age: 27

Gender: Male

Job: Registered Architect

Industry: Architecture

Salary: $55,000

Neighborhood: Wesley Heights. Living with my fiancée and our dog in an apartment.

Credit card debt: $0. I pay off my credit card expenses almost instantly. I’ve seen credit card debt really hurt some of my friends and family. My advice: for everyday purchases, never spend money you don’t already have!

Student loans: What was a total of $43,000 is now down to $28,000 since graduating in 2016. I have prioritized paying off my student loans, and I am sticking to it.

Car payment: $0. I’m driving my dad’s hand-me-down truck. It’s still going strong even with 230,000 miles on it!

What’s the best thing you’ve ever spent money on? 

As much as I complain about my debt, the best thing I’ve ever spent money on is my education. I’m really grateful to have even received the opportunity to have a higher education. It’s simply not available to everybody! Besides the degree, and the fact that school is a necessity to pursue the career path I’m on, it also was a transformative experience. I am a totally different person post-college than I was on my first day, and that’s a good thing.

What’s the most frivolous thing you’ve ever spent money on? 

I was convinced over the course of 30 minutes to spend $250 on a weekend trip in college. Looking back, I’m glad I did it. That trip eventually lead to a student leadership position and meeting my future wife.

Would you rather show a friend your savings account or your Google search history? 

Savings account.

If I had to show a friend the amount of money currently in my checking account I’d feel:

I would feel okay about it, I suppose.

If I won the lottery the first thing I’d buy is:

I would buy a bunch of land and make a community park. There’s something tranquil about the thought of being a park ranger. I would channel my inner Ron Swanson.

One thing I’d love to buy that I haven’t been able to afford to yet is:

I would love to buy a new vehicle. I’m driving my dad’s old company truck. It’s got close to 230,000 miles on it. It still runs like a champ, but I know it’s going to start falling apart soon. I haven’t pulled the trigger, because a car payment would mean less money I can put toward student loans every month.

Three financial goals:

  1. Pay off my student loans ASAP. I’m already making great strides towards this goal.
  2. Save money for my wedding, which is right around the corner (January 2020).
  3. Save money for a honeymoon/down payment on a house. I honestly don’t know which will come first.

Money diary: How I spent my money last week


This Monday is special. It’s the first of the month and that means bills need paying! Woo hoo! I pay rent ($650, my portion), student loans ($1,000) and the power bill ($84) at the first of every month. My fiancée covers the internet bill, valet trash, and the pet fee we owe to our apartment. Together, her three apartment expenses roughly equals the power bill I pay every month, so we’re OK separating these responsibilities.

Yes, $1,000 payment for student loans every month. I want to get rid of this debt ASAP. Every day I don’t finish paying off my student loan debt is roughly $5 more I owe in interest. That adds up quickly! I have positioned myself financially to be able to contribute as much as I can without breaking the bank, and I’m sticking to it. For context, it’s about a third of my monthly income. At this rate, I should be done with my student loans in 2022, with potential savings around $6,000 to $8,000.

I got lunch today at Chipotle = $9.63. I also ordered some eye solution on Amazon = $17.05. I’ve found products related to personal hygiene can often be found for much cheaper on Amazon rather than in stores if you get them in bulk.


No money spent today. I went to work, came home, and went to my men’s church group in the evening. I bring my lunch to work most days, and it saves me a lot of money in the long-run.

A couple of years ago, my New Year’s resolution was to eat out less during the work week.

Over the course of the year, I did my darndest to bring my lunch from home every day. I only spent around $300 on lunch that entire year, which constituted a huge savings for me. I’m not as diligent now as I was then, but I think I still do a pretty good job.


I stopped for gas on the way into work this morning. I spent $44 exactly. The old truck I’m driving gets about 18 MPG. I know it’s not the best, but it’s the only vehicle I have to drive at the moment. I fill it up twice or three times a month on average.

I use an app called GetUpside when I’m at the pump. It’s essentially a rebate program for gas. You upload your gas receipt and get a certain amount of cash back based on what that gas station is offering (10 cents per gallon in this case). I got $1.66 back for this $44.00 trip to the pump. It’s not much, but it’s something. You can export this money off the app in multiple ways. I’ve transferred it into an Amazon gift card in the past.

I can also get money off at the pump because I’ve accumulated “points” from shopping at Harris Teeter. I like looking for ways I can minimize these costs anywhere I can find them.

I got lunch out at a diner with some coworkers. I splurged and got dessert. Total bill came to $16.25.


No money spent today. My day: work, laundry, gym, bed. Could this be the new GTL?!


Basketball game date night! My fiancée’s office gets season tickets to the Hornets basketball games and distributes them to the employees. It’s a great perk.

We park in South End and take the light rail into Uptown to save on parking fees and the headache of navigating stadium traffic. Round trip Blue Line tickets were $8.80.

We stopped into 7th Street Market for dinner and a beer before the game. Two beers from Tank’s were $9 and a crepe for me was $12 with tip. Again, I like to leave tips so that the overall price is a whole dollar. It’s just my version of OCD.


I went disc golfing with the guys at a private course (yes, I’m an avid frolfer) this morning. It was $5 for the round.

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for a breakfast sandwich on the way. That was $4.32.

Later that evening, my fiancée and I took our engagement pictures with our photographer. It was a lot of fun, but we were exhausted after a three-hour session (it went way longer than expected). We stopped by Cook Out before going home, because we totally deserved burgers after smiling for that long. Two trays came to $12.56.


On Sunday mornings we go to church and then head straight to Harris Teeter to buy our weekly groceries. It’s our ritual. We split the cost in half, so I spent $55.95 this week. This is about average for us.

We cook a lot of our own meals for health and financial reasons. My fiancée has a Pinterest board dedicated to easy/quick meals that we’ve found taste really good!

Today we also met up with some church folks after the afternoon service at People’s Market for a little get-together. I picked up the bill for my fiancée and I, which was $28 (food and coffee). We do a good job taking turns paying for things.

We aren’t married yet, and we don’t feel comfortable combining bank accounts right now. We will get there soon, but we’ll worry about that after the wedding. At the moment we have a good system in place that’s fair to both parties.

What I learned

My spending is about what I expected. I track my financials very closely using an app called Mint. Whether it’s coming in or going out, I know exactly where every penny is going.

I also have a budget established on the app from month-to-month, so I know when I need to stop spending money on certain things (aka food and beer).

Student loans are a little frustrating, but I have a good system in place to get rid of them quickly. I also get frustrated when people assume I have loads of money because I’m an architect.

Architects make an average salary in my opinion. Comfortable, but average. It’s not what pop culture sometimes portrays, and it’s definitely not what I’m hearing BofA is dishing out. Have I considered a career change only three years on from graduation? Yes, yes I have.

Build your financial know-how with free tools and information to help you make more confident decisions. Visit the Bank of America Better Money Habits site today.

Need 1:1 guidance on getting your finances in order? Schedule an appointment with a Bank of America specialist today or stop in your local financial center.

To see the other installments of Cash Confessional, click here. This series is completely volunteer-based; if you’re interested in keeping track of your own spending and having it featured, email Lauren at [email protected].


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